Saheli*: Musings and Observations
Tuesday, October 11, 2005
 
This Is What I Want, Maybe You Can Help Me? Recovery 2.0, Civil Society, and Geography

Last Thursday night, Scott and I went to the Recovery 2.0 inaugural meeting. We're not sure what form Recovery 2.0 efforts will take, but we know that at least a couple dozen people, from lowly bloggers like me to convener Jeff Jarvis to Yahoo! and Google representatives to Michael Powell, former chair of the FCC, to Brian Oberkirch, a survivor of Katrina, all wanted see how they could use the internet and technology to better serve disaster.

Scott and I were keen on getting two points out---that an ounce of prepardeness is worth a pound of relief and recovery, and that vulnerable populations need special help getting prepared and getting relief. Scott, of course, was representing for CARD. (I guess I was too, since I now volunteer for them.) But I'd like to think that I was also representing for desk-jockeys, pajama warriors, small-time volunteers and living-room charity poker players everywhere. People who would like to do more for their civil society in the odd hours of the day and night, or would like to know more surely that their volunteer work is fitting into a larger whole, or would like to get their small donation dollars to a needy and specific charity.

To that end I have just proposed a project on the Recovery 2.0 SocialText Wiki-like object. You can read the whole proposal here, but it basically sums up to this: I would like to have a database to volunteer for, a database I could, as a participant, enter information into and help fill. I want a database that I, as a user (in my capacities as a volunteer, donor, and blogger), could then search to find information and display it or print it or otherwise access it.

What kind of information? Geographically classified and searchable information about civil society organizations that are relevant to disaster relief. Shelters, clinics, schools, special-needs community centers, senior centers, TTD telephones, food banks, churches, etc.. Who they are, what they do, how they're funded, how efficient they are, what they need, where they are, how to get them money and stuff. I want to know that my effort to document and learn about my community is fitting into a larger effort, and I want to be able to quickly find, evaluate, and help civic groups at will. And I want to be able to create relevant maps fairly easily. (Note that if a database structure was created properly, and was sufficiently open source, there would be no reason for it to be restricted to being used for disaster preparedness and relief. )

Imagine, for instance, if such a database had been built and and the South Asian segment was being perpetually filled by volunteers all over South Asia. It would make the work of the South Asian Quake Help Blog so much easier. People could log on, grab a list of local NGOs with good reputations for giving food aid and not participating in local skirmishes. Money could be wired immediately. Imagine if it had existed for Katrina--evacuees could have taken advantage of the warning to line up shelters to stay at and clinics to get their prescriptions renewed by. We would immediately have been able to get a list of homeless shelters in the Houston area that we could immediately and directly send our money to, and maybe even contact them about showing up to volunteer.

Now I've never built such a thing. Really, I've never built anything much more computationally complicated than a counter of single-photons. I only recently started to get my wiki on. After many childhood and school years of volunteering, I spent most of my adult life volunteering for professional and academic-centered societies, and am only now really diving into local civil society. I haven't studied much geography. So this is really the ultimate bleg (blog beg.) If you can tell me where this database exists, fine. Please help me try to find it! Thank you! But in case we don't find it soon---please consider helping me make sure it happens. I think it would be cool and quite a bit of fun. I think we could even make it a lovable project.

Note--I know some of you are going to say, well, why not just use Google Maps? Answer: Maybe we will. I love Google Maps, and give them my fangirl praise whenever I see them. (The people, that is, not the maps.) But it's not necessarily visually flexible or GIS-like searchable enough to store and serve all this information.

Some blogs that gave me material to chew on while thinking about this: Ethan Zuckerman, in describing the aftermath of the KatrinaPeopleFinder, really blew me away with the possibilities of using parallelized labor to break down massive and tedious data entry tasks into bite size pieces. Hedgehog at Rhinocrisy reminded me of our need to trust those whom we are giving our money and time, and reasons for balancing donations to big centralized bureaucracies with direct-to-the-grassroots interaction. And Robin Sloan and Matt Thompson of Snarkmarket are always going on about maps.

My original Recovery 2.0 post. Technorati tag:
 


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Saheli Datta started this when she was a journalism student at Columbia in New York. Now she lives in the Bay Area. *Old people call me R. New people, call me Saheli. Thanks! My homepage. Specifically, my links. Email me: Saheli [AT] Gmail [dot] Com

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Blogs I Read (Or Try To)
113th Street
american footprints(Nadezhda & Praktike)
ANNA's Diary
Apartment Therapy
Armchair Generalist
Back To Iraq 3.0 (Chris Albritton)
Dave Barry
The Bellman
Mine's On The 45 (Brimful)
Campaign Desk (CJR)
ChennaiCentral
ClimateBoy
Combing the Sphere
Crooked Timber
Daily Dose of Imagery
The Daily Rhino (Bong Breaker)
Dark Days Ahead
The Decembrist
Brad DeLong
Atanu Dey on India's Development (Deeshaa)
Daniel Drezner
Ennis
Ephemera
Cyrus Farivar
Finding My Voice
Forsv
Neil Gaiman
Ganesh Blog
Geeky Chic 2.0 (Echan)
Geomblog
Green Ink!
Heliolith
Alexandra Huddleston
Iddybud (Jude Nagurney Camwell)
Indeterminacy
India Uncut
InSpiteOfEverything
Intel Dump: Phillip Carter et al
The Intersection (Chris Mooney)
Jesus Politics
John and Belle Have a Blog
Mark A. R. Kleiman
KnowProse (Taran Rampersad)
1Locana
Maenad (Nori Heikkinen)
Scott McCloud
Mind Without Borders
Electrolite: Patrick & Teresa Nielsen Hayden
Corey Pein
Political Animal(Kevin Drum, formerly Calpundit)
Kevin G. Powell
QuakeHelp (South Asian Quake)
Radiation Persuasion (Nick)
Reneebop
Rhinocrisy
Scott Rosenberg(Salon.com)
Rox Populi
Felix(&Rhian)Salmon
samVaad
Nick Schager
Idea Spout: Daniel Sanchez
Sepia Mutiny
Amardeep Singh
Snarkmarket (Robin Sloan & Matt Thompson)
South-East Asian Earthquake and Tsunami Blog
SreeTips: New To Sree
Steprous (Bear)
Robert Stribley
Subjunctive.net:klog
Talking Points Memo: Joshua Micah Marshall
Tech Policy
TiffinBox
A Tiny Revolution
To The Teeth
TreeHugger
Unfogged
VatulBlog
Venk@
Manish Vij
Vinod's Blog
War and Piece
Nollind Whachell
Wonkette
WorldChanging
Matthew Yglesias:Old
Yglesias:Tpmcafe
Zoo Station:Reuben Abraham
Ethan Zuckerman
Zwichenzug



Some Categories

Blogs focusing on policy, politics, and national security:
Armchair Generalist
Back To Iraq 3.0 (Chris Albritton)
The Decembrist
Brad DeLong
Daniel Drezner
Eschaton(Atrios)
Green Ink!
Iddybud (Jude Nagurney Camwell)
Idea Spout: Daniel Sanchez
Informed Comment: Juan Cole
Intel Dump: Phillip Carter
The Intersection (Chris Mooney)
Irregular Analyses
Jesus Politics
Mark A. R. Kleiman
Liberals Against Terrorism(Nadezhda & Praktike)
Political Animal(Kevin Drum, formerly Calpundit)
Talking Points Memo: Joshua Micah Marshall
War and Piece
Wonkette
Yglesias:Tpmcafe

Photo Blogs
Daily Dose of Imagery
Ephemera
Alexandra Huddleston
Radiation Persuasion (Nick)
TiffinBox

Columbia Journalism Folks
Apartment Therapy
Back To Iraq 3.0 (Chris Albritton)
Campaign Desk (CJR)
Ranajit Dam
Cyrus Farivar
Alexandra Huddleston
InSpiteOfEverything
Corey Pein
Nick Schager
Zoo Station:Reuben Abraham

Literature, Fiction and Entertainment
Dave Barry
Neil Gaiman
Electrolite: Patrick Nielsen Hayden
Scott McCloud


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